- The Washington Times - Friday, July 31, 2020

The House voted Thursday to prevent the Department of Justice from enforcing marijuana prohibition in parts of the country where pot is legal for medical or recreational purposes.

By a vote of 254-163, the House passed an amendment that would prohibit the department from using federal funds to interfere with marijuana laws enacted by any state, territory or tribe.

Marijuana is prohibited under federal law, but most of the country has legalized the plant for either medical or recreational purposes, including nine states with retail cannabis industries in place.

Congress has barred the department in previous years from interfering in state medical marijuana laws. The latest amendment, part of an annual spending bill, expands that safeguard to cover laws implemented in any state, territory or tribe authorizing the “use, distribution, possession or cultivating of marijuana,” effectively broadening the protection to cover recreational marijuana programs as well.

“The American people are demanding a change to our outdated cannabis laws and I am glad to see my colleagues heeding their calls,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat and the amendment’s sponsor.

A total of 222 Democrats and 31 Republicans voted in support of the amendment, giving the measure bipartisan backing recognized as momentous by one of the country’s leading marijuana legalization groups.

“This is the most significant vote on marijuana policy reform that the House of Representatives has taken this year,” said Justin Strekal, political director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML). “The importance of this bipartisan vote cannot be overstated as today; nearly one in four Americans reside in a jurisdiction where the adult use of cannabis is legal under state statute. It is time for Congress to acknowledge this reality and retain these protections in the final spending bill.”

House members voted in favor of passing similar protections last year, but that language was ultimately absent from the final version of the appropriations legislation eventually signed by President Trump.

Thirty-three states and counting have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana to varying degrees. Eleven of those have also legalized recreational marijuana, including the nine that allow retail sales.

Marijuana is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule 1 substance, placing the plant alongside heroin in a category reserved for narcotics with no medical value and easily abused.

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